More than 750,000 Americans have signed a petition to let their states secede from the U.S.A. since the Nov. 6 election, including people from Alaska, Maryland, Texas, Iowa and Vermont. And many of them, or at least their leaders, are claiming they're demanding secession on religious grounds.
Known as purity-through-separation, it's an idea that's been around through all of American history and has a major basis in the Puritans fleeing Europe for the New World. Those signing the White House website petition “are just the latest example of a long parade of breakaway groups [in American history] seeking to restore some lost ideal,” says Peter J. Thuesen, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
abortion. Evangelical blogger Jim Rawles says, “It's time to distance ourselves from the vile corruptness that we see inside Washington, D.C. ... In effect, we're becoming pistol-packing Amish.” Many see secession as a God-given right, looking to the American Revolution and when Southern states left the Union in the 1860s for inspiration and support.
Q: What do you think of the claims of the secessionists? Are they valid?
Certain terms come loaded with hateful subtext before any meaningful discussion even begins. Secession is such a word. The last time there was widespread talk of secession in this country, it centered on human beings’ right to own other human beings and to continue to exploit the owned beings in order to continue a certain privileged way of life.
There is something about the discussion of leaving the Union that smacks of, “If you don’t let me have my way, I will take my toys and go home, or at least in this case redefine MY sense of home.”
We live in a country, our commonly beloved country, where much of the fallout from the first attempt at secession still leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Racism and prejudice of all kinds still exist in America. Now, as during the first attempt at secession, even in my own progressive denomination, it often masquerades as religious and ethical purity. At the time that my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) became a religious movement on American soil, in 1806, its founders all owned slaves. The mistaken idea that our country is now led by a president whose ancestors came to this country as slaves infuriates many Americans. The idea that the White House, which was built by slaves, is at this moment inhabited by the descendants of those who constructed it, is anathema to many people. It physically hurts them.
The fact that this presidential administration has succeeded in building a coalition among people who have been typically disenfranchised by America is more than some people can bear. That women, people of color, the gay community, seniors, and differently abled people, just to name some groups, have rallied around this president with the non-Christian sounding name, the fact that at the United Nations, in representing the great United States, he is accorded the high title of “His Excellency,” the fact that his African-American wife dared embrace the untouchable queen of England, leaves many people in deep pain.
What is America coming to? What has happened to America? It seems to me, that in 2012, those who talk of secession have no valid claims; they are childish and self-centered. They are those who are attempting to use their hurt, the pain and fear that they feel because they no longer are the only occupants of the center, to try and hurt the nation that struggles to make a place of honor for us all. Sadly, and dangerously, secessionists would rather see America fail, rather than do the painful work of examining their own motives and making room for America’s and the world’s growing diversity. Shame on them.
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
No, and no. Didn't we go through this already in the 1860s? The Union won, and nobody really wants to fight this war again.
Abraham Lincoln, for all of his greatness, wanted first and foremost to preserve the Union. He wanted to free the slaves, but first and foremost he wanted to keep the union together.
In my opinion, the whole idea of secession is so wrong-headed. Are the secessionists going to print their own money and build their own armies? And are they really willing to say goodbye to Uncle Sam, who is there with a big check after disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes?
What if Nevada wants to invade Idaho, for example? Who is going to help either state, soldiers from the great country of California? I mean, the whole idea for me is laughable. Yes, there may be corruption in D.C. But, by seceding, do you really think you'll escape corruption in your new country of Barataria? (I'm borrowing from a Gilbert and Sullivan idea.)
This is a great opportunity for a sermon on the idea of Original Sin, but I'll spare you this time. The whole idea of Original Sin is that each one of us is born with the idea that we are the boss and not God, and we will rebel regardless of who we are or where we were born. There is no escaping corruption by going someplace else, even if the Puritans did have that idea. (They also gave us the Salem witch trials once they got established here in their “pure” new government.) The Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex” tries to say that we can't avoid our fate even if we purposely move things around; Oedipus still comes back to kill his father and marry his mother in spite of all that they did to upset the prediction.
No, secessionists, there is no easy answer. Mankind is fallible, even democratic mankind. My advice would be for you to use the tools our Founding Fathers gave us: elections. There's always another one coming up, and if you work hard, you might even be able to become part of another fine American tradition, and that one is this: “Throw the rascals out!”